Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

22 November 2004
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)

--Alien Skin's Eye Candy 5: Nature Coming Soon
--Digimation Ships SpeedTree 3
--VR & Multimedia Authoring Tool Integrates Okino 3D Data Translation Tech
--Alias MotionBuilder 6 Set to Ship
--auto.des.sys Updates form.Z

--NTI Launches CD & DVD-Maker 7 Titanium

--O'Reilly Releases "Gaming Hacks"
--Ritchie Announces New Tutorial Collection: The Art of Project Dogwaffle
--Paraglyph Press Publishes "Small Websites, Great Results"

--Sony Releases EyeToy: AntiGrav for PS2
--Activision Launches Lemony Snicket Game
--Merscom Brings "Steel Saviour" to North America
--Digital Leisure Ships Dragon's Lair 3 for DVD, CD-ROM
--Sony Releases Jak 3
--Activision Releases Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

--Report Finds 81% of Studios Not Working in HD

--About Spectrum



Alien Skin's Eye Candy 5: Nature Coming Soon

Coming in early December from Alien Skin Software is Eye Candy 5: Nature (Nature), a set of 10 plug-in filters for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Jasc Paint Shop Pro and Macromedia Fireworks. The second of a three-part upgrade to Eye Candy 4000, Nature simulates a variety of phenomena, including fire, smoke, rust, snow, ice and more. Nature features four all-new filters and reincarnates six Eye Candy classics. The software is aimed at graphic designers, digital photographers, and Web or multimedia content creators.

Version 5 refines the features of previous Eye Candy versions, simplifying usage and supporting digital imaging innovations. Nature uses familiar keyboard shortcuts and is scriptable in Photoshop using actions. Presets provide over 200 effects, and an improved settings-management system makes it easier to browse, share and add new presets. Nature works with 16-bit images; color transitions are smoother, with less banding, and print documents reproduce colors more accurately. Unlimited undo and redo speeds the process of selecting the right effect, while context-sensitive online help prevents perplexity.



Digimation Ships SpeedTree 3

Digimation has begun shipping SpeedTree3, with new features such as flared trunks, advanced wind controls, a new sample library, better international support, and improvements to the foresting tool.

New features include

A 15 day demo is available at http://www.digimation.com/software/asp/product.asp?product_id=388


VR & Multimedia Authoring Tool Integrates Okino 3D Data Translation Tech

Okino Computer Graphics, a provider of 3D data-translation technologies and solutions, and Act-3D, a provider of real-time interactive virtual reality authoring solutions, have partnered to integrate Okino's PolyTrans 3D conversion technology into Act-3D's virtual reality product Quest3D. This is now available to Act-3D customers as version 2.5 of Quest3D.

With the new integrated PolyTrans support it is now possible to use 3D assets, models, animation and scene data from a wide range of design software packages. This includes all leading industry standard software like 3ds max, AutoCAD, Lightwave, Maya, Softimage, trueSpace, Openflight, Autodesk Inventor, Pro/Engineer, Solid Edge, SolidWorks and many more, used by design studios, content-creation, CAD, and game-development companies. Okino's mesh deformation, skinning, and animation pipelines are also supported, allowing proper conversions of animated skinned meshes from 3ds max (character studio and Skin modifier), Maya, XSI (all versions), DirectX, Lightwave (including implicit and explicit weight maps, and Lightwave 8 skinning support) and Kaydara's FBX.

Quest3D is a multimedia authoring tool designed for creating interactive real-time 3D productions. Its graphical interface is said to let designers create advanced real-time 3D productions without programming or scripting. Quest3D is used in business areas such as architecture, landscape visualization, business presentation, virtual-reality training, and product visualization but also by artists and game developers.



Alias MotionBuilder 6 Set to Ship

Alias says MotionBuilder 6, its 3D character performance and animation system, is now available to customers on maintenance. The software will be made available to the public in late November


Alias MotionBuilder 6 provides real-time character animation technology including a Story Timeline and enhanced keyframing, intelligent character technology (such as auto-rigging with Human IK) and precision-animation tools.

Version 6 includes a more intuitive environment with a high-level animation editor, redesigned properties viewer and the ability to emulate the hotkeys of other 3D packages.

Other new features include simplified camera controls and an enhanced viewer with new navigation hot buttons. MotionBuilder 6 also features a redesigned transform manipulator and Handles, a new tool that lets artists control selection and manipulation of objects.

Alias will offer a 30-day trial version of MotionBuilder 6 beginning November 29




auto.des.sys Updates form.Z

Coming shortly from auto.des.sys, Inc. is form.Z 5.0. The new version of the 3D software incorporates version 4.5, which was only to a special group of beta testers and plug-in developers. The main new feature is a new API technology and script language.

The API technology and the script language of form.Z are both methods that invite the user to develop custom extensions to the program. This can be done either through a plug-in that is developed outside of form.Z or through a script that is developed using form.Z's editing environment.

A plug-in is written in the C or C++ computer language and is compiled into a binary library. A script is written in the form.Z script language (FSL), which is a simplified version of the C language. It is intended for a novice programmer who may get started with adding extensions to form.Z without having to set up a complete C or C++ based development environment. Once a script has been written, it is generally fairly straightforward to convert the FSL code of the script to real C or C++ code for use in a plug-in.

The form.Z API provides access to much of the form.Z functionality including modeling operations, interface elements, data access, memory management and math functions. The API supports nine types of extensions: custom attributes, file translators, object types, renderers, commands, palettes, RenderZone shaders, tools, and utilities. All of these are available for plug-in development. The latter five are also available for scripts. The API includes over 3,000 functions that are explained through an HTML-based online documentation and a PDF-based developer guide. The form.Z 5.0 package contains a number of ready-to-run examples for scripts and plug-ins.

form.Z 5.0 is the first native OS X version and represents the end of support for the classic MacOS operating system. It requires OS X 10.2 or later. It also supports Windows XP, 2000, NT, ME and 98. Windows 95 is no longer supported.

Other new features:

Interface Modeling Rendering




NTI Launches CD & DVD-Maker 7 Titanium

Just out from NewTech Infosystems is CD & DVD-Maker 7 Titanium Suite for personal computing, music, photo, home video, and backup/recovery tasks. New features include:




O'Reilly Releases "Gaming Hacks"

It doesn't take long for an avid--or wickedly clever--gamer to be chafed by the limitations of videogame software or hardware. But those who make the games--and those who dig deeper--know that there's much more to gaming than conquering the bad guy. Behind the alluring graphics and deceptively simple game play lurks a hidden world. How far can you go? Farther than you might imagine. Whether you want to modify your console controller to work on other consoles, create your own text adventure, or modify your Game Boy, there's plenty of fun you can have for cheap or free, using the creative exploits of the gaming gurus. Gaming guru Simon Carless shares the best of them in his new book "Gaming Hacks" (O'Reilly, US $24.95).

"People love playing games, whether it be on their console, their PC, or elsewhere, but it's also fun to go beyond the game and hack about in its innards," says Carless. His new book isn't about a particular game or console, or any particular gaming era. Instead, it explores and celebrates a few of the most interesting nooks and crannies of the gaming world--whether new, old, or positively ancient.

"We've collected a hundred hacks for gamers from game developers, expert players, and fans, representing dozens of rabbit holes related to playing, collecting, modifying, and enjoying the world of video games," explains Carless. "Some talk about classic games. Others explore modern consoles. Still more cover PC games. There's something here for everyone--from an old idea in a new dress to an unknown concept or wacky idea that you'd never have considered...until now."

"Gaming Hacks" shows hardcore gamers how to configure the best FPS (first-person shooter) peripherals, hack the Nuon DVD Player/Gaming System, modify their Game Boy, watch movies and listen to music on their Sega Dreamcast, and much, much more. The book also includes detailed software-based looks at MMO titles, FPS games, machinima (real-time movies created using game engines), emulation, save-game hacking, and many other miscellaneous subgenres and topics, including:

-Play classic games just as you remember them
-Become a hero, villain, or tycoon online
-Seek out, buy, and play real arcade games in real arcade cabinets
-Play imported games without hardware restrictions
-Create and play your own games in less than a week
-Hack, mod, and overclock your favorite console

Additional Resources:

Several sample hacks, including "Make a Profit in Vana'diel," "Hack the Dreamcast Virtual Memory Unit," and "Put Your Face in DOOM," are available online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/gaminghks/chapter/index.html

For more information about the book, including table of contents, index, author bio, and samples, see: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/gaminghks/


Ritchie Announces New Tutorial Collection: The Art of Project Dogwaffle

Dan Ritchie, author of the paint and animation software Project Dogwaffle, has announced the immediate availability of a new tutorial collection, called "The Art of Project Dogwaffle." The new collection covers topics such as:

In all there are 31 AVI files with video capture and audio.



Paraglyph Press Publishes "Small Websites, Great Results"

Paraglyph Press announces the publication of a book that shows readers, step by step, how to build smaller, more effective Websites: "Small Websites, Great Results" (U.S. $29.99, 352 pp, ISBN 1-932111-90-5). Authored by Doug Addison, this book captures the latest thinking in Website design--that smaller is better, and that complex and bloated Websites are a thing of the past because they waste precious time and resources and are often ineffective. This book is especially written for anyone who has put off creating a Website because they feel Websites are too costly or require too many resources to build and support. The book is also designed for Web designers and other professionals who are actively involved in Website design.

Doug Addison's mantra throughout the book is twofold: Simplicity is the key to success, and quality is more important than size. In the late 1990s, many companies started building large, complex Websites. But with today's ease of shopping on the Internet, and the short attention spans of most Web users, Websites that are slow and bloated are quickly passed over by customers in favor of small, efficient, and easy-to-use sites. Websites are expensive to build and maintain, and today's companies cannot afford to waste resources on a Website that loses money. This book shows the reader how to: -Design, create, and support Websites inexpensively, while also seeing great results -Save valuable resources (time and money) by not wasting these resources on Website features that don't really work -Use time-tested methods to encourage customer interaction, sell products and services, and obtain feedback -Create Websites that users trust, so businesses can get and keep more customers -Work with outside Web designers to get the best possible results

This book shows readers new approaches to creating sites; what makes small sites really work; how to select winning themes and formats for a site; design techniques that make sites look professional, even on a small scale; the secrets of getting business from the Web; strategies for getting, keeping, and satisfying customers; and much more. Tips are provided to show less-experienced readers how to work with professional designers to get the best possible results. "Small Websites" also features small sites that work for different types of businesses, including: artists, entertainers, writers, and speakers, consultants, and other professional organizations.




Sony Releases EyeToy: AntiGrav for PS2

Just out from Sony Computer Entertainment America is EyeToy: AntiGrav, a 3D character-based EyeToy game that uses facial and body recognition technology to control a character in hoverboard gameplay. The title was developed by Harmonix Music Systems, Inc., the creators of Frequency, Amplitude and Karaoke Revolution.

The camera uses a combination of facial and motion tracking technology to lock onto the player and capture movement. The gamer's movements are then used to control steering, jumping, ducking, grinding, acceleration, braking, and tricks, as they interact with the environment and avoid obstacles.

When playing in one of the five game environments, the motion tracker is positioned in the lower right hand corner of the screen, so the player can see how their movements correspond in real time to the movements of one of the eight hoverboard racers that they have selected.

After first completing the tutorial, players can choose to rack up points in Style mode, compete against three other AI-controlled hoverboard racers in Speed mode, or beat their friend's best performance in multiplayer mode. Gamers will grind on rails, fly through rings, hit target combos, crouch to initiate turbo boosts and perform tricks in the air in futuristic urban and rural settings.



Activision Launches Lemony Snicket Game

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events video game from Activision lets players experience the lives of the three Baudelaire orphans through 16 missions where they solve puzzles, build inventions and outsmart the evil Count Olaf and his troupe of creepy cohorts. Jim Carrey, Liam Aiken and Emily Browning reprise their film roles as Count Olaf, Klaus and Violet Baudelaire, while Tim Curry reprises his role as the narrator of the "Lemony Snicket" books on tape. Platforms include PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube, plus different versions for GBA and PC.

In the game, players switch between the three orphans - Violet the inventor, Klaus the brave intellect and Sunny, the biting baby - and master each one's strengths to keep them one step ahead of Count Olaf, who will stop at nothing to get his greedy hands on their family fortune. Adventures take them through such film locations as the Count's mysterious mansion, Uncle Monty's reptile room and Aunt Josephine's rickety house hanging over the dark waters of Lake Lachrymose, as well as many other environments exclusive to the game.

Additionally, gamers must help the orphans gather objects throughout their adventures in order to build inventions to help them solve tricky puzzles and fend off enemies. Inventions include the Brilliant Bopper to clear foes from the orphans' path, the Stable Stilts to maneuver through toxic goop and the Baby Booster for jet-powered jumping.

Working in conjunction with Nickelodeon Consumer Products, Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Studios, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events was developed by Amaze Entertainment.



Merscom Brings "Steel Saviour" to North America

Merscom LLC will distribute "Steel Saviour" on behalf of its sister company SR-71 Games. Developed by Italian team Atlanteq s.r.l., the Windows game has experienced strong sales in North America via electronic software download and at retail in Germany and Russia. Boxed copies of the retro-style scrolling arcade shooter are now available for $19.99 through Merscom's online store at www.merscomstore.com and other online retailers.

Uncover the demise of a mysterious planet, where exotic creatures roam chromatic landscapes and venomous enemies lurk behind every corner. You are a lone gunman who must summon your courage and skills as you travel through four atmospheres that embody water, fire, wind and energy, and finally a fifth level that is a monster - literally. "Steel Saviour" introduces loads of different enemies, animated background graphics, multi-directional scrolling, multiple parallax layers and an explosive sound.




Digital Leisure Ships Dragon's Lair 3 for DVD, CD-ROM

Canada's Digital Leisure will ship "Dragon's Lair 3," a new adventure of Dirk the Daring, this month in DVD and CD-ROM formats. The game includes improved graphics, utilizing Toon Shading technology, as well as new characters, challenging levels and three new bonus scenes. The complete game provides forty-three levels and nine boss battles.

Dirk the Daring, the brave yet bumbling knight, is ready to venture back into the Lair in this adventure. The Evil Wizard Mordroc has again kidnapped the fair Princess Daphne and Dirk is her only hope. Players control the actions of Dirk the Daring as he fights his way through the castle of Mordroc who has enchanted it with treacherous monsters and obstacles.



Sony Releases Jak 3

Sony Computer Entertainment America recently shipped Jak 3, the third and final installment of the Jak and Daxter trilogy for PlayStation2, developed by Naughty Dog.

One year has passed since Jak and Daxter saved Haven City from Kor and the attacking Metal Heads, yet Haven City is still immersed in chaos as three groups fight for control of the streets. The people of Haven City have grown to distrust Jak's dark powers, and as rumors boil of Jak's ties with Krew and Kor, the city blames Jak for its current woeful circumstances. Now banished to the Wasteland, Jak begins his quest for redemption joined by pals Daxter and Pecker. Their objective is to escape from an area five times the size of Haven City, filled with hazardous environments, a vicious volcano, the hostile city of Spargus and cavernous mines. With access to off-road transportation, including lizards, hovercrafts and off-road vehicles featuring true-to-life physics, Jak fights to return to civilization while waging a personal war within him.

Now possessing Light Eco power, in addition to the Dark Eco abilities that led to his banishment, Jak's struggle to balance the two add further intrigue to the compelling storyline. The game is also enhanced through the introduction of technology called "ragdoll physics," which lets gamers witness a unique death for each enemy that is killed, plus independent cloth movement technology and enhanced the enemy artificial intelligence (AI) with wall climbing and smart formation capabilities. Additionally, Jak is equipped with a Morph-Gun that utilizes 12 new gun types.



Activision Releases Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

New from Activision is Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, developed by Troika Games for the PC. The RPG adventure, set in White Wolf's World of Darkness, is powered by Source, Valve's new engine technology. Selecting from one of seven clans, gamers interact with other characters, decide with whom to ally themselves, and watch as darkness takes over their soul while a mysterious plot unfolds.




Report Finds 81% of Studios Not Working in HD

TrendWatch Inc., a market information company for the pro-video, visual effects, content creation and graphics markets, recently released "HD Use Report," an 80-page report on the current state of HD in the U.S. Based on original TrendWatch research conducted with a range of U.S. studios and facilities, this report outlines the types of studios employing HD and how they are utilizing it, which HD formats are being implemented, and formats that are not being adopted.

"HD continues to be a very hot topic," said Jim Whittington, TrendWatch founding partner. "Understanding studios' adoption, preferred formats and HD uses is critical for companies seeking to market to this industry. Although HD does not make sense for every studio, for those who do adopt HD, the transition to HD ties up investment dollars that might be spent on other hardware and software products. It also defines future investment budgets and market opportunities for their HD work."

In the "HD Use Report," TrendWatch experts discuss the current state of HD use, and provide specific recommendations regarding HD use and adoption for studio/facility managers. Some key findings include:

HD formats covered in the report include D7-HD (DVCPro-HD), D5-HD, HDCam, D6 (Voodoo), HDCam SR, and D9-HD.

The "HD Use Report" is priced at USD $575. For more information and details on the reports' contents, key findings and excerpts from this research, visit http://www.trendwatch.com/special.html



About Spectrum

Spectrum is an independent news service published every Monday for the interactive media professional community by Motion Blur Media. Spectrum covers the tools and technologies used to create interactive multimedia applications and infrastructure for business, education, and entertainment; and the interactive media industry scene. We love to receive interactive media/online-development tools and end product for review.

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